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Full text of "A history of Persia"

THE GOLDEN AGE OF ISLAM

77

entirely on independent lines and chiefly from his personal
observation of the divers provinces. His work is
probably the greatest, it is certainly the most original,
of all those which the Arab geographers composed/'1
It is not possible in the space at my disposal to give
details of the trade routes which connected the Caliphate
with every quarter of Europe and Asia, but I cannot
omit a reference to Rei, on the great trunk route from
west to east, where the Slav merchants who had de-
scended the Volga from the north met the traders from
the Levant. Elsewhere I have spoken of Persia as the
cc Highway of the Nations/' and this fact by itself would
go far to justify the description.
We now come to the science of geography. Mamun
" created the first true school of geographical science
which had been seen since the days of the Antonines. . . .
An observatory was founded at Baghdad where attempts
were made to determine the obliquity of the ecliptic.
Once again Mamun caused a simultaneous measurement
to be taken, in Syria and in Mesopotamia, of a space of
two degrees of the terrestrial meridian." 2
It would be well if Europeans who are sometimes
apt in ignorance to depreciate the East would contrast
the state of learning, of science, of literature, and of the
arts among Moslems in this century with the deep
darkness which then covered Europe. It is not too
much to say that in all these departments of intellectual
activity the East was incomparably superior to the then
benighted West, and this continued true during a period!
of some five hundred years ; for not until the twelfth!
century did Christendom cease to depend on the East for!
its light. Ex Oriente lux : no aphorism ever crystallized
a profounder truth.
The Mutazila Sect.—It would be improper in any
account of the golden age of Islam, however brief, to
pass over without at least some mention the special
doctrine which won the adherence of the Caliph and his
Court.8 The Mutazila, or " Seceders," represented the
1 Lands of the Eastern Caliphate, p. 13.
3 Dawn of Geography, vol. i. p. 409.
8 This brief reference is founded on chap. viii. of Bro\*r0w> $reat \yorfe.,